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"The only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself."
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's First Inaugural Speech
[Originally delivered March 4th, 1933]
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Inaugural Speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Given in Washington, D.C.
March 4th, 1933
President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:
This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain
that my fellow-Americans expect that on my induction into the
Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which
the present situation of our nation impels.
This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth,
frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions
in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured,
will revive and will prosper.
So first of all let me assert my firm belief that
the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . .
nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes
needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership
of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding
and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership
in these critical days.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our
common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things.
Values have shrunken to fantastic levels: taxes have risen,
our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by
serious curtailment of income, the means of exchange are frozen
in the currents of trade, the withered leaves of industrial enterprise
lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce,
the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem
of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.
Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance.
We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with
the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed
and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.
Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.
Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes
in the very sight of the supply.
Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods
have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence,
have admitted their failures and abdicated. Practices of the
unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion,
rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast
in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure
of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.
Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people
to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations,
pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules
of a generation of self-seekers.
They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple
of our civilization. We may now restore that temple
to the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which
we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies
in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer
must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.
These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they
teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto
but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard
of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false
belief that public office and high political position are to be values
only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit,
and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business
which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness
of callous and selfish wrongdoing.
Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty,
on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection,
on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone.
This nation asks for action, and action now.
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is
no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously.
It can be accompanied in part by direct recruiting by the
government itself, treating the task as we would treat the
emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this
employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate
and reorganize the use of our national resources.
Hand in hand with this, we must frankly recognize the over-balance
of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national
scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land
for those best fitted for the land.
The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values
of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase
the output of our cities.
It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy
of the growing loss, through foreclosure, of our small homes
and our farms.
It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and
local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost
be drastically reduced.
It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today
are often scattered, uneconomical and unequal. It can be helped
by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation
and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely
There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never
be helped merely by talking about it. We must act, and act quickly.
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require
two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order:
there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments;
there must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must
be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
These are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress
in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek
the immediate assistance of the several States.
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting
our own national house in order and making income balance outgo.
Our international trade relations, though vastly important,
are, to point in time and necessity, secondary to the establishment
of a sound national economy.
I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first.
I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic
readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery
is not narrowly nationalistic.
It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence
of the various elements in and parts of the United States. . .
a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation
of the American spirit of the pioneer.
It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest
assurance that the recovery will endure.
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy
of the good neighbor. . .the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and,
because he does so, respects the rights of others. . .the neighbor
who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements
in and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize,
as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other:
that we cannot merely take, but we must give as well,
that if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal
army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline,
because, without such discipline, no progress is made,
no leadership becomes effective.
We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property
to such discipline because it makes possibly a leadership which aims
at a larger good.
This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes
will hind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity
of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great
army of our people, dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government
which we have inherited from our ancestors.
Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible
always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis
and arrangement without loss of essential form.
That is why our constitutional system has proved itself
the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world
has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory,
of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive
and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet
the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an
unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call
for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures
that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these courses,
and in the event that the national emergency is still critical,
I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.
I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument
to meet the crisis. . .broad executive power to wage a war
against the emergency as great as the power that would be given
to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage
and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.
We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm
courage of national unity, with the clear consciousness
of seeking old and precious moral values, with the clean
satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty
by old and young alike.
We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy.
The people of the United States have not failed.
In their need they have registered a mandate
that they want direct, vigorous action.
They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.
They have made me the present instrument of their wishes.
In the spirit of the gift I will take it.
In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God.
May He protect each and every one of us! May He guide me in the
days to come!
End of the Project Gutenberg Edition of:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's First Inaugural Speech